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PM unhappy with slow pace of disbursement of aid to farmers

PM unhappy with slow pace of disbursement  of aid to farmers

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says that he is not satisfied with the progress that is being made with the disbursement of money and fertilizer under the Farmers Support Company.{{more}}

The prime minister made this clear during a press conference at Cabinet Room on Wednesday, when he called on senior officials to speed up the distribution process, which he said was disappointing.

“You have had just over 1000 applicants; some of course would not qualify… they have effected over 300 approvals amounting to about $1.2 million and they have disbursed just about $300,000 of that $1.2 million, that is, in my judgement, unsatisfactory, and I have made that plain to the Permanent Secretary and I’ve made that plain to the Chief Agricultural Officer.

Gonsalves said that he intended to put pressure on agriculture officials to get the money and fertilizer out of the bank and warehouses, and into the hands of the farmers.

He said that he had hoped that the 5000 sacks of fertilizer donated by the government of Morocco would have been already distributed, and the available $2.5 million of the $6 million from the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) would have been used up by this month.

“The warehouse is still stacked with fertilizer… roughly 3000 this morning is still undistributed….

“Now I expect to see a faster rate of disbursement of the $6 million. I expected that by the month of April for them to be coming back to me and say “PM, I need some more of the $6 million.”

“So I want the farmers to appreciate that if they have their beef with officials in the Ministry of Agriculture moving too slowly on this matter, behaving as though they are an NGO, who working at a pace which is different to ULP time, I am saying plain and simple that is unacceptable.”

Gonsalves said his tirade was not in an attempt to beat up on any individual, describing the officials as good and decent, but rather for the administrators to up their game.

He also admitted that there were challenges to the process, but added that diligence was key to getting the exercise to speed up.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Raymond Ryan as well as Chief Agricultural Officer Leslie Grant, who were both present at the press conference, gave the prime minister the assurance that the process would be ramped up.

Ryan informed Gonsalves that he estimated that all current applicants would be processed by the middle of next month. (JJ)

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